A discussion about the new MacBook Pro, MagSafe, SD cards, dongles

This was a good discussion I wanted to save to I post it here, with permission

I’ve been contemplating the purchase of a new MacBook Pro but like half of the rest of the internet I have my reservations due to the high price and lack of any port except USB-3 / Thunderbolt 3. There’s no doubt at all that this is the way of the future but when you’ve got so much other stuff that connects via everything else you pause before the purchase. There is often a great debate when Apple releases new products that eschews common and current connections in favor of the future. And the same questions are always asked.

How to connect my stuff?

How much extra cash will we have to spend on adapters?

How many more dongle will we need to carry around?

Will those dongles be an inconvenience?

We saw it with the Mac Pro. We saw it with the iPhone 7. Now we see it with the MacBook Pro.

Another thing happened the other day that made me take special notice of this conversation. I had three incidences in the same day when the MagSafe adapter in my old MacBook Pro saved it from possible destruction. One was because of my kids, one my dog and the other was because my desk was a mess. Granted this was a very unusual day but that dad did make me take notice of this exchange.

The discussion was on a private Facebook group but I think the topics were interesting and universal enough it made for a great read when thinking about the new MacBook Pro purchase. The downside of Facebook is that it is a closed community and this discussion often happens behind closed doors. I guess that can be a plus as well.

I asked for permission to post this discussion from my friends in the group and they said yes. It’s not easy to translate a Facebook discussion to a blog post but here it is. Now  I just need to publish the other one I have about the iPhone 7’s lack of a headphone jack (the outcome of that one was I did update to an iPhone 7 but I still hate the loss of the headphone jack).


Felipe Baez

<Rant start>
So, I’ve been watching a lot of reviews about the new MacBook Pro, as well as reading a lot of opinions about it and I wanted to share my opinion as a Video Professional that lives day in and out on editing videos after videos.

I have a team of 6 editors in 3 different countries, a couple of freelancers in two other locations. Most of us are sitting in a most current iMac 5K with upgrades possible. We also use constantly our MacBook Pros, most of which the most recent version prior to the current touchbar version. Together we deliver over 400 videos a month, so this is not a week output.

I will skip the subject of Apple introducing new IO and getting rid of old IO as everyone knows about this already, but seem to forget very easily. People’s expectations now seem to be “bring me amazing new, but keep the old because I depend on it”. News flash, you can have one of them built-in, not both. As a consumer we all have the power to choose with our wallets.

If Apple would’ve kept old USB A plugs (that won’t charge your computer and won’t drive a 5K display, neither have a throughput of 40Gbps) everyone would’ve complained that they are not putting the latest and greater IO connection (Thunderbolt 3). Note that they decided to make this a future proof device, ready to accept input and output from devices coming to market, everyone’s complaining about needing dongles to connect to their old devices. Thunderbolt wasn’t readily available on the market when Apple added to its notebooks (I know they kept USB) but sure enough the market delivered Thunderbolt devices and today a person that invested in that future proofing still can enjoy Thunderbolt devices.

This is like buying a Tesla and then complaining they can’t use that spare gallon for fuel stored in their car just in case they need to walk to the gas station and get some fuel. Yes, I understand that no one is going to throw away their cameras, their SDs or their RAIDs, but my point is that we are purchasing a new computer, future proofed in terms of IO and of course if we have something old, it will be needed an adapter. Bad would be if no adapters existed. Back to the first MacBook with Thunderbolt, this now is the first Mac with a plug that does two different standards at once, USB 3 and Thunderbolt 3, reversible plug. If you buy it, you’re betting on this technology and its future, vote with your wallet.

Remember the move from parallel port printers to USB? We all complained, we needed USB to Parallel adapters that were not always reliable etc. We moved on, printer manufacturers started embracing USB and the industry moved forward. The same from USB 2.0 to FireWire, back to USB 3.0, Thunderbolt 1, Thunderbolt 2, USB 3.1 (with less bandwidth than Thunderbolt 2) and now USB 3.1 gen 2 and Thunderbolt 3 (on the same connection). Instead of one connection per standard and per function, we have a Swiss Army knife of IO.

Fact of life, technology evolves, it can’t be locked to single function ports, connectors change, everything changes. The question is, will you adapt? Will you change? Again, not ignoring the investment everyone already made in their current equipment, but using dongles to connect to the old stuff while having a future proofed laptop in terms of IO seems like a problem that’s not really a problem. A problem is people that still starve in the world, but no one complains about that so loudly on the internet.

</rant end>

Chaz Wren

Look, I’ve said this a million times now. To future proof something is not the act of removing every single option and replacing them all with one single option that’s realistically still a few years away from really gaining traction.
How is that possibly future proofing? It’s not.
“Introducing the new Ford Mustang. We’ve removed the car radio, CD player, aux input, USB input, and Bluetooth, and we’ve replaced them all with several USBC ports. It’s future proof.”
Bad comparison. But my point is, where we have options, there is often a reason for it.

If I hear one more person refer to the port massacre as “future proof” then… Well… Realistically nothing will happen tbh. But I’ll be increasingly annoyed.

Ok well aware of the speed benefits of UBSC. But when have we EVER had a computer that’s put all of it’s eggs in one basket? And when has that ever been a good idea in any industry or with any product?

The loss of the SD port is huge. Let’s not pretend otherwise. Yes, there are other storage formats that aren’t catered for, like CF. But SD is the “USB” of the camera world. It’s huge. It’s everywhere.
Do some cameras take CF? Sure. But are several millions of people all over the world catered for with their SD cards? Absolutely. Until now.

The MagSafe is also a tragic loss. It’s far more innovative and than the touch bar imho. And that’s not a dig at the touch bar. I think it looks ok. But the MagSafe really did solve a VERY real problem. My power cable got yanked out on many an occasion. And every time it happened, I silently (and sometimes verbally) thanked apple for their innovative MagSafe adapter.

You know what I think they should’ve done? (Not that it matters). I think they should’ve kept the SD port, and kept at least one USB3-A port. And absolutely kept the MagSafe.
Bring a couple of USBC ports to the new machine (80Gbps of combined theoretical bandwidth), alongside an existing USB3-A port, the all too useful SD slot, and one of the greatest laptop innovations of all time – the MagSafe.

I have a feeling that the amount of people who are realistically going to drive 2x 5K displays, alongside a Thunderbolt 3 RAID, whilst running a Thunderbolt/USB/SD hub, will be vastly outnumbered by those who will be inconvenienced by the loss of SD, HDMI and USBA.

I’m a forward thinking person. I’m all for genuine innovation that actually moves us forward and solves problems. But I’m increasingly fed up of people implying that this new IO massacre is in some way moving us forward. In reality, it causes more problems than it solves. And it could’ve been avoided by splitting the IO with existing IO.
The real issue here, is that Apple wanted to save space in their machines. And in doing so, they needed to move away from USBA and HDMI (and I’d hasten a bet the internals of the SD reader isn’t terribly thin either).

Just my 2 cents of course.

Roger Bolton

Sorry I agree with Felipe. Its a better solution for me to have a cheap small USB-C dock with all the ports I want on it which I leave plugged into monitor, keyboard and mouse, and ethernet at my office. Once I buy a USB-C external HD then I won’t even need any dongles most of the time when I’m on the road, since I don’t connect to an external display, or ethernet usually. I think my usage pattern is fairly typical, most people just don’t need all their ports except when back at their own desk, which a dock is a better solution, since it’s one cable to unplug and get going. Bang $79, problem solved.

Also the problem with keeping magsafe is that then it’s not one cable at my main desk to connect to a dock with everything. It’s two, power and USB-C or TB3. So sorry I’d rather have the one cable convenience than magsafe.

Chaz Wren

I work with a lot of filmmakers and photographers who are inconvenienced by this. But I also respect that some people welcome it.
It’s never been a good move to put all your eggs in one basket. That’s rarely worked out for anyone.
And the loss of MagSafe is just dumb. There’s no other word for it.

But all USBC ports provide power. So the sensible thing to do would be to keep MagSafe, and people can instead use USBC for power if they prefer.

MagSafe was the last true innovation that Apple brought to their laptops imho. It genuinely solved a very real problem. It saved people thousands of pounds/dollars all years round. It’s a huge deal imho. Huge.
I’d go as far as to say that I’d lose the SD, HDMI and USBA all in favour of keeping the MagSafe. And I use all of them on a daily basis. But MagSafe has saved my bacon more times than I can count.

Roger Bolton

You realise that if it’s a USB-A device that you want to use then all you do is replace the existing cable you have which goes USB-A to mini USB-A to a different cable which goes USB-C to mini-USB-A. Its the same amount of stuff to carry around and the cables are cheap.

Chaz Wren

Now you’re talking. That doesn’t solve the issue with flash sticks though. But I guess the best bet is to ditch your flash sticks and buy shiny new USBC ones. Or grab an adapter.
My biggest gripe remains SD and MagSafe.
I genuinely think the loss of MagSafe is a very sad thing indeed. Apple are throwing away something that has served an important purpose and solved a BIG issue that’s all too real when using your laptop on the move. And they’ve replaced it with something that takes us back to 2005, prior to the revolution of the power cable. It’s sad to see.

Roger Bolton

From what I understand the USB-C cable already pulls out more easily than a USB-A one, so it’s kind of mag safe. And yeah my plan is just to buy some of these dual flash drives. flash drives are disposable anyway, I never expect them to last more than six months.

Chaz Wren

1:35 in this video says quite the opposite.  I think we’re gonna see a LOT of cases of people realising just how important the MagSafe truly was, once it really gets out into the wild.

Roger Bolton

Personally I can’t remember when was the last time magsafe saved me anything, i just don’t leave my power cable across walk ways. But if it’s that important to you.

Chaz Wren

Yup, I’ve seen it. And it really really is. I guess it depends how you use your MBP though.
When I use mine on location, there often isn’t the luxury of setting up next to a power socket. I frequently find myself setup in a place where my power cable is left running to a power source, and could be snagged by passers by.
It’s a real problem. I’m not alone in this. If it doesn’t affect you personally, then that’s great. But it’s a bit like happily waving goodbye to antilock brakes on your car, and saying “meh, I’ve never skidded before. I just don’t see the need.”
If something solves a real world problem for thousands, if not millions, of users. And has been praised by reviewers and users all over the world since it’s unveiling 10 years ago. Then why would you throw it all away, and go back to re-introducing the original problem?!?

Roger Bolton

You know what? It was probably symmetry. They didn’t want one port to be different to the other 3. They could have used a mag safe variant of USB-C. It’s true that sometimes Apple’s obsession with form over function is often something I shake my head at.

Chaz Wren

Yeah, that’s how it seems. And it annoys me. I’m all for symmetry and beautiful design. But not at the expense of usability or innovation.
At least there’s a bunch of MagSafe USBC options on the market already. That’s a positive.
I just wish Apple hadn’t thrown away such a magnificent innovation.

Felipe Baez

I completely agree with the MagSafe perspective, 100% and I Love it, will miss it and I’ll have to be more careful with cables.

Bill Davis

I’m with Felipe. When I moved out of the house we’d lived in for 15 years, I must have finally thrown out about 500 dead era cables. Parallel. SCSI, AppleTalk, RS-232 & 422, and that’s just for computers. I had S-Video, BNC, Composite, Component, and DIN. And Audio via XLR, RCA, Phono Plug, 3.5mm, Toslink and at least one microphone wired for a recorder from the 1920s.
Stuff changes. Deal with it. I’ll post this picture AGAIN…

bill-davis-plugs

If you can’t see the OBVIOUS visual engineering advance between the power only cable on top and the power PLUS super high speed bi-directional data in about 20% of the physical area – I don’t know what to tell you. You move on when moving on gets you an obvious IMPROVEMENT. This does. Period.
A while from now the SDCard reader is gonna look like a slot for Audio Cassettes. It’s what happens. The thing you use every day now? The day comes when you don’t use it EVER AGAIN. (Anybody want to buy a 10-pack of 15 minute VHS tapes perfect for client copies of TV Spots? I didn’t think so. ; )

Chaz Wren

You’re comparing SD to audio cassettes? So, out of interest, what’s the next storage medium that’s going to do away with SD? Because I’ve no doubt that it’ll happen on day, but there’s no big changes on the horizon from what I’m seeing. Thus, SD is till as relevant as is ever been. Comparing it to cassette is an odd comparison to make.

MagSafe was a tremendously useful innovation. It solved a problem. An actual problem that existed, you know?
I’m not comparing it to USBC, I’m saying it should still live alongside those ports. It shouldn’t have been killed altogether.

You’re comparisons are odd. SD cards go up to 512GB now, and in most capacities are an extremely cost affective storage medium. They’re still the industry standard. Killing something while it’s still going strong, with no signs of dropping any time soon, is just daft if you ask me.

Photographers and videographers/filmmakers the world over rely on SD cards every single day. The long term prospects of SD look very bright indeed. Speeds continue to improve, and storage capacities are also on the rise.
They shouldn’t be compared to audio cassettes and VHS, but rather HDDs and SSDs.

Felipe Baez

I wouldn’t see it as killing the SD, but you know what’s the benefit of not having it soldered to the computer? Same benefit we got with Apple not being the one keeping control over the YouTube app on the iPhone.

Right now, they could put a faster reader, but in some time from now there will be a better one and your built-in will be the slower. I’d rather carry a super fast Thunderbolt 3 reader on the go and the dock on the desk.

Of course, that’s just a personal preference.

I have to apologize to everyone, didn’t think so many people would engage on this rant. Love how everyone here is super engaged.

Bill Davis

“Tired of working for the day, Bill gently pressed the button on his ring – storing the days work in its petabyte of memory while mentally reminding himself to check the work one more time before posting it to the world. With a yawn, he tapped the pendant he wore housing an ancient SD card encased in transparent aluminum – a stark reminder of just how much his world had changed.”

Life is but a dream. ; )

Chaz Wren

Lol. Ok. Let’s also kill SSDs shall we? Because that’s a medium that won’t lay forever either. And perhaps we should kill SLR lenses, because there’s every possibility that they’ll eventually be superseded by “virtual”/light field lenses. 

Richard Taylor

Removing the magsafe is not tragic. An earthquake is tragic. It is irritating but can be remedied for $39 which is what I plan to do.

I always want more power and a cheaper price for every Mac I’ve ever bought. But I still buy them and have rarely, if ever, been dissatisfied. Complining about a new iMac, iPhone, iPod, MacPro his nothing new and this time is no different.

Hey Apple, where is my 2016 cheesegrater?

The 2016 MacBook Pro is what it is and Apple is not going to change it. Buy it or don’t, I said as I type this comment on my new MacBook Pro.

Chaz Wren

Lol. Ok, mr pedantic. 😉
Of course, I’m not actually putting the loss of the MagSafe on a level with a catastrophic earth moving event.
I’m just saying it’s bad. And it was unnecessary to lose it. It was real, genuine innovation at it’s best. It elegantly solved a problem that had plagued laptops and electronic devices since their conception. Apple should have kept the MagSafe imho.

And there’s a certain irony to slimming down a laptop to be physically thinner and lighter… And then needing to carry adapters and or/hubs and extra cables with you to get the same job done.

Richard Taylor

I’m not disagreeing with you but this is what Apple always has done.

And I have no Mac that doesn’t have a slew of connections. They all look like an octopus is attacking them.

Chaz Wren

Yeah, and I do hear that. And I know that Apple seem to want port symmetry. But the MagSafe if worth keeping. It’s brilliant! I’ve shown it to SO many PC friends, and their eyes have widened with jealousy every single time. It seems crazy to throw that away.

Richard Taylor

Agreed, but it’s not available on this model. So I’ll buy one for $39.

 


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Scott Simmons

Scott Simmons was born in rural West Tennessee and didn’t really realize that movies and tv had to be made by actual people until he went to college. After getting degrees in both Television Production and Graphic Design he was in one of the early graduating classes at the Watkins Film School in Nashville, Tennessee. During that time at Watkins he discovered editing. While most of his classmates in film school wanted to be directors, Scott saw real career opportunities in post production and took a job as an assistant editor after completing film school. In 1999, Scott took the leap into freelancing and in 2007 accepted a position as an editor at Filmworkers – Nashville. In 2005 Scott created The Editblog a website dedicated to all things editing and post-production which is now housed here at PVC. Someday he hopes to edit on a beach with a touch screen device, a wireless hard drive and a Red Stripe.